5 Of the most important things to remember when saving for retirement

5 Of the most important things to remember when saving for retirement

Like buying a car or home, retirement is a long-term investment – and the key to any big investment is to break it down into smaller savings goals over time. AARP is helping make saving for retirement easy with their interactive retirement savings coach, Avo℠ at AceYourRetirement.org.

Check out some of their savings tips below, then get your own personalized action plan at AceYourRetirement.org. Three minutes of your time will pay dividends toward a more secure retirement.

1. Visualize your perfect retirement life

Retirement looks different for everyone. Allowing yourself to dream a little can help determine exactly how much money you'll need to retire. Are you planning to work on the side or volunteer? Do you have designs on traveling the world? Or are you planning on just kicking back and relaxing? Having solid answers on what kind of retirement you'd like to have will make it a lot easier – and more exciting – to save and plan ahead.

2. Patience is key

When the trains are delayed again, the boss is breathing down your neck and everything seems stressful, it can be tempting to fantasize about retiring as soon as possible. But staying in the workforce a few more years can have a big impact on your Social Security benefits. If you decided to retire at 62, you'd only be entitled to the minimum monthly benefit.

It is important to know that it pays to wait. For each year that you delay claiming Social Security, you’ll get an additional seven to eight percent. Waiting ‘til 66 or 67 (depending on the year you were born) gets you the full monthly benefit. And if you wait until you’re 70 you’ll actually get the maximum monthly benefit. Now that could be the smart play. (There is no advantage to delaying further, as your monthly benefit stops growing at age 70.)

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3. Contribute more than the bare minimum to your 401k

Let's be honest - it's not always easy to look at your paycheck and know that the number at the bottom could be bigger than it is. But if you can spare a little extra for your retirement fund, squirreling away that money now can pay off in a big way later on. Think of it as putting a down payment on your dream retirement.

Talk to your employers about increasing your contribution, if only by 1 or 2%. Also, consider contributing your bonus or a percentage of your raise to your 401K. And, if you're currently self-employed, it's worth setting up an automatic contribution to an Individual Retirement Account (IRA), which allows you to invest your retirement savings in the market.

4. Live within your means

Spending only what you can afford is the secret to living a financially secure life, and it only becomes more important once you retire. Settling into a rhythm now of budgeting and tracking your spending can allow you to save more cash in the short term, and make more accurate projections for the long term. Enjoy life now, but don't let that enjoyment come at the cost of your future. Saving money steadily every month can help make your dream retirement a reality - but it is critical that you start now.

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5. A problem shared is a problem halved

If you're lucky enough to have a loving partner to share your life with, it's useful to have frequent and open conversations about your retirement goals and savings plan. You can make sure you’re on the same page about your timeline and priorities, and factor in shared expenses like housing and healthcare. Pooling together minds and resources will allow you to be more prepared and relaxed when the time comes for both of you to retire. Two heads are better than one, after all.

Well, then! I don't know about you, but I'm feeling way more prepared for my retirement. While you’re feeling inspired, check out AceYourRetirement.org for tips personalized for your goals and timeline.

Answer a couple of simple questions and receive an action plan detailing your next steps for a more secure retirement. Take a deep breath, folks. In three minutes, you've just made a massive step toward securing your own future. How's it feel?